Does Vietnam want to boost cooperation with India to deal with China in the South China Sea?

Ambassador Pham Sanh Chau (second from left) met with India’s Foreign Minister Shringla (third from left)

Vietnam has informed India of the escalating tensions in the South China Sea (Vietnamese call it the East Sea), reported Press Trust of India (PTI), as China is increasing its military presence there with the deployment of ships, fighters and at least one bomber in the resource-rich waters.

PTI said that the Vietnamese Ambassador to India, Mr. Pham Sanh Chau, had a meeting with india’s Foreign Minister Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Friday August 21, 2020.

According to PT, the Vietnamese ambassador stated the actual situation in the waters that Vietnam said is its own in the East Sea, where the Indian firm ONGC has oil and gas activities.

In what diplomatic sources call the official meeting, Ambassador Pham Sanh Chau said Vietnam was determined to develop a strong comprehensive cooperation relationship with India.

Over the past two months, China has increased military activity in the South China Sea, while the world is struggling with a pandemic corona virus.

Earlier this month, China deployed an H-6J bomber to Woody (Phu Lam) Island, the largest island in the disputed Hoang sa (Paracels), where Vietnam claims sovereignty but under China’s controls since 1974.

This “not only violates Vietnam’s sovereignty but also harms the situation in the region,” Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said at a press conference on Thursday, August 20.

The arrival of the bomber, according to Chinese media, allows the People’s Liberation Army of China to curb US military activities in the area.

Global Times quoted experts as saying that this H-6J would discourage US aircraft carriers.

An American aircraft carrier

The US’s sending of warships near the disputed archipelago and calling Beijing’s demand for the area illegal came after China’s Ministry of Defense in July announced it had given the bombers to attend exercises in the area.

The world will not allow Beijing to view the South China Sea as its maritime empire,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “The US works with its allies and partners in Southeast Asia to protect their sovereignty and offshore resources.”

Pressure on oil and gas activities

China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, where there are abundant resources, creating disputes with several other countries in the region, including Vietnam.

Along with increasing its military presence, Beijing has also increased pressure on oil and gas exploration and exploitation activities of other countries in the South China Sea.

Vietnam is facing the prospect of losing heavy oil and gas operators to operate in its waters, as China is increasing pressure on activities in waters that Beijing considers areas belong to its nine-dot line in the South China Sea, according to analyst James Gavin on Petroleum Ecnomist.

Pressure from China this year has forced Russian firm Rosneft to suspend previously planned operations, while both Repsol of Spain and Mubadala of the United Arab Emirates, Vietnamese partners at Ca Rong Do project had to give up their stake in the project.

A rig owned by the Repsol group

The news said that in return, the firms were compensated by the Vietnamese side with a total value of about $1 billion.

Although it is not a claimant in the South China Sea, this is the sea area that plays an important role for India; 55% of Indian commercial goods move through this crossroads, and India participates in many oil and gas projects with Vietnam in the South China Sea.

China has objected to Indian oil and gas projects, but India says that cooperation in energy exploitation with Vietnam here is in accordance with international law.

Defense and military relations between India and Vietnam have increased over the past few years.

After a decade of being a strategic partner, India and Vietnam officially upgraded their relations to “comprehensive strategic cooperation” in 2016.

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The details of the recent meeting between Ambassador Pham Sanh Chau and Foreign Minister Harsh Vardhan Shringla were not announced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor the Embassy of Vietnam, although the ambassador himself made a brief announcement on the social network about the meeting with the local diplomats. (Translated)


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